Red Sox make out like big winners in Adam Ottavino trade

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK — OCTOBER 15: Adam Ottavino #0 of the New York Yankees pitches during the seventh inning against the Houston Astros in game three of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 15, 2019, in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

After a stagnant offseason, the Boston Red Sox have made three moves to address critical areas of weakness this week.

It all started with the signing of Kiké Hernández, who will likely assume the team’s starting second baseman's role. Then right-handed starter Garrett Richards was inked to a one-year deal with a club option for 2022 the next day.

Then, after a few days of nothing, Chaim Bloom struck again. This time, it was acquiring reliever Adam Ottavino from the Yankees. In this deal, the Red Sox also acquired 2018 fourth-round pick Frank German (№24 in the Yankees farm system), and $850,000 while sending away a player to be named later, or cash considerations.

Ottavino was strong during his Yankees career. The 35-year-old reliever posted a 2.76 ERA, a 3.46 FIP, and a strikeout rate of 30.7 percent across two seasons. His 2020 season looks like a down one at face value. However, he started the year well––posting a 3.55 ERA, a 3.51 FIP, and a 28.3 percent strikeout rate through his first 16 outings. Then he had an abysmal showing on Sept. 7 against the Blue Jays, giving up six earned runs without recording an out.

His ERA ballooned to 7.82 after that outing, his FIP was 5.01, and his strikeout rate dropped nearly three percent.

Then, as all good relievers do, he rebounded. In his final seven outings, Ottavino posted a 1.59 ERA, a 0.19 FIP, and struck out nearly 40 percent of opposing batters (38.5). Overall, his ERA was 5.89, but his FIP (3.52) was about on-par with his 2019 showing (3.44), and his xFIP improved from 4.32 to 3.78.

To the Red Sox, this move is brilliant and practically a no-brainer. Whether or not one has faith in Matt Barnes as the team’s closer, it was apparent there were question marks behind him. Adding somebody like Ottavino to the fold helps Alex Cora solidify his relievers' roles while simultaneously improving the organizational depth.

Which sounds better? The organization deciding between Chris Mazza and Ryan Weber for the final bullpen slot, or having both at their disposal at the Triple-A level? It seems like an obvious answer.

Secondly, though the contract is steep monetarily, Ottavino‘s contract expires after the season. Therefore, acquiring him does nothing to limit how much the team can spend next offseason.

Next, he’s the type of player that can net the Red Sox an excellent return at the trade deadline should he have a good first-half. Like Garrett Richards and his contract, the Red Sox have put themselves in a great position if they succeed, but the team falters. The worst-case scenario is either an injury derails the player, or he vastly underachieves. Even if that happens, the Red Sox can cut ties at the end of the season and have risked nothing.

Lastly, even though Frank German hasn’t dazzled as a professional yet, he still has lots of potential. His fastball jumped about three mph between his final year at North Florida and his first season in the Yankees farm system. Now, it hovers between 94 and 96 mph but has topped out at 98. His changeup has improved, too, showcasing the ability to be a lethal out-pitch for the 23-year-old. However, sometimes he leaves it flat––which is worrisome but can be worked out with further development.

Lastly, he threw a slurve in college. The Yankees were trying to turn it into a true slider, but who knows what the Red Sox will do with that?

Sure, this was nothing more than a salary dump for the Yankees, who are looking to free up 40-man roster spots as well as money. However, the Red Sox make out like significant winners in this trade. Chaim Bloom should hold his head up high today because this trade makes the Red Sox better now, with the potential to make them even better moving forward.

Baseball writer, sometimes dip into other sports. Major advanced stats nerd. ASU Cronkite ‘23

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